A/N Welcome! This is my first story, a retelling of the film How to Train Your Dragon. I hope you enjoy it.
I don't know if I'll ever be done fixing it.
My name is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, and this is my journal. I know, it seems strange for a 'slash first, ask questions never' Viking to write his thoughts out and carry them with him, but I'm no ordinary Viking. In fact, other than being the son of the village Chief, I'm not really a Viking at all. I can't lift a hammer, I can't swing an axe, and the first time I ever tried to actually do something as the apprentice of Gobber the Belch, our local Blacksmith, I managed to cut off his right foot. Luckily for me, a dragon had already done that to him years prior, so he just attached a spare peg and smacked me upside the head.
So, I'm not much of a Viking. And since I'm barely a Viking, I don't feel weird keeping a journal. In fact, I'm kinda surprised I didn't do this earlier, but I guess it has to do with my fear of being considered weird. I mean, I am weird. I'm really weird. Anyone on Berk will tell you that. But, I've embraced it a little, or at least enough to carry a notebook around with me.
It's become one of my most useful tools, too. Other than loving to draw, and being able to do it anywhere, I have far too many ideas floating around in my head to keep track of them all. So here I am, writing them down as I walk through the forests of Berk. My house may be empty, what with my father gone on yet another expedition to find the dragon's nest and all, but I prefer being outside. When I'm at home, people tend to know. When I'm lost in the forest they secretly hope I don't come back out, but at least they leave me alone.
Speaking of dragon expeditions, this one was supposed to be a big one; the last major attempt during Berk's 'warm' season to break through Helheim's Gate, find the dragons' nest and take it, so we could finally be rid of them. However, most of the village decided they'd rather use the least-cold portion of the year to prepare for the rest of it, rather than chasing after a cloud-masked island no one's ever seen.
Gobber, my father's closest friend and confidant, was among those with no interest in another expedition. He somehow managed to convince my dad to use a single scouting ship to find a decent path through the fog before sending an entire fleet. It probably had something to do with how many boats we'd already lost to Helheim's Gate as well as how many provisions we had, despite the dragon raids. Really, though, I think Gobber was just sick of building new boats.
Either way, my father's departure just meant that I had more time to myself, which was nice. An even better turn of events was the weather: the skies were almost cloudless and there was actually a nice breeze blowing over the island. It was the end of spring, and even though the concept of seasons never really applied to Berk, it was still a lovely day for anyone used to living in an arctic wasteland. The dawn air was clear and crisp, and while there was always the chance for the weather to turn horrible in a moment, I had a feeling today would be a good one.
I only returned to the village from where I'd been staying to change into some clean clothes and grab a basket of fish from the docks when I was sure no one was looking. After that, I headed back into the forest toward my own private hiding spot from the village: Toothless Cove.
It isn't on any maps of the island, and no one's ever bothered going to the part of the forest it sits in. Of course, I'm grateful for it; it's hard not to be grateful when its a perfect place to avoid random glares, taunts and sometimes(all the time when Snotlout is involved) physical violence. I may be the Stoick the Vast's son, but that doesn't stop me from being the butt of everyone's jokes or being beaten on for being little. 'It'll toughen the little runt up' they say. It's not like it could be causing any deep-rooted emotional problems that I cover up with sarcasm and dry wit. No, that couldn't possibly be a side effect at all.
As I trekked deeper into the forest, I kept a lookout to make sure no one was following me. I'd wandered the woods for years, so losing someone that might be interested in my business had never been a problem. Not that anyone ever would, but still. What I was doing now could get me in more trouble than every failed dragon-slaying siege engine I'd ever built. If anyone ever discovered who I was hiding at the cove, it wouldn't be pretty, considering his kind and mine are at war.
Our island, like many in the area, has pest problems. Very big, angry, dragon-sized pest problems. Being that we're a tribe of fatheaded Vikings, we opted to declare war on the beasts rather than move somewhere a little less inhospitable. I'd frequently questioned this stubbornness as a child, and it was always met with the same response: 'We're Vikings. It's an occupational hazard.' We were too pigheaded to leave, and the dragons obviously weren't going anywhere, so we fought with them over our resources.
Even with all of the damage they'd caused and everything they'd ever stolen from us, I no longer wanted to fight them(not that I ever could to begin with). My village, on the other hand, was still quite alright with continuing a three-hundred year old war. I knew I had to try and stop it, considering all of the recent changes to my life, but something that long-standing would be almost impossible to put and end to for someone my age, even with the help I had.
As for why I no longer wanted to fight the dragons? Simple, really: the best friend I'd ever had in the fifteen years I'd spent on the island and only resident of Toothless Cove didn't much like to fight, either. He convinced me that dragons weren't the evil, heartless monsters we'd painted them as.
Even so it wasn't like I could very easily explain away the fact that I'd been hiding a dragon from the village, meaning the cove had to remain a secret. Taking a different route to and from it between days kept from leaving a clear path for someone else to follow, but they could still follow me if I was spotted. Luckily I was good at hiding, and would do so if I noticed suspicious movement or sound nearby. It was rare, but it still happened, much like today.
Walking and writing at the same time tends to dull the senses, but the obvious 'thunk' of an axe head hitting wood snapped me out of my trance. I hid behind a tree from the source and quickly put my journal away in my vest. Beyond the bark of my hiding place, training with her throwing axe not one hundred feet from me, was Astrid.
Beautiful, wonderful Astrid.
She ripped the weapon from its place in a large oak tree and hurled it as hard as she could at another one. As I watched her maim tree after tree, part of me thought I should say something to her, especially considering the blade flying around. I decided against it since she hated me, and that combined with the axe was admittedly intimidating.
The last thing I needed on such a beautiful day was a weapon flying at my head, so I remained silent, looking at her intensely as I hid. Her face was dripping with sweat, her brow furrowed in concentration. It was a look I'd seen on her a lot, but something else about it bothered me. Astrid wasn't the kind of warrior that had any difficulty mastering her weaponry, but at the moment she clearly looked more frustrated than concentrated.
Her technique wasn't getting any sloppier, but she seemed to be getting angrier with each throw. I wondered again if I should make my presence known and say something to try and cheer her up, even if it would only end with me being hit and then yelled at.
I'd probably be called a fool for it, but even though Astrid was always cold to me I still enjoyed seeing her happy, which was admittedly rare compared to our childhood. All she ever seemed to do was ready herself for our upcoming Dragon Training classes, and it seemed to be getting to her. At least she had more time to prepare for it, thanks to me.
Dragon Training was originally slated to start on the same day as the latest voyage to the barrier of fog that surrounds Dragon Island. My father had planned on having Gobber train the village's new recruits in the Dragon kill ring while some of our best warriors accompanied their Chief to Helheim's Gate. Despite knowing firsthand that most of these convoys never come back('It's an occupational hazard' echoing through my mind) he was still determined to find the nest, and that part of his plan wouldn't change no matter what number of boats he used.
The Dragon Training part of the plan did change, however, since Gobber managed to convince my father of one more thing: alongside the other trainees, I was to take part in learning how to kill a dragon, and my father insisted he wanted to keep an eye on me while I did it. As such, training would begin when he returned, meaning my life would only remain calm and quiet for a little while longer.
I pushed those thoughts from my head and eventually pried my eyes away from the passion with which Astrid was perfecting her technique. Silently I slipped away toward my real destination, making sure to focus on the rhythmic sounds of her axe as they slowly faded into the background.
Within a few minutes the forest was quiet again, leaving me awash in the sounds of nature as I reached the bottom of Toothless Cove, fish basket in tow. I opened and upended it, dumping its slimy contents in a slightly nauseating pile in front of me. I stepped back from the pile and made to call for the dragon I was trying to feed when I was lightly pounced to the ground from behind.
A happy purr and the sight of big, scaly legs on either side of my head were proof enough that he already knew I was coming. But then again, with his pristine hearing and sense of smell, I had a feeling he knew exactly where I was. Toothless was a dragon, after all; the same dragon I shot down during the last raid we had; the same dragon I could've killed, but didn't; the same dragon that could have killed ME, but didn't; and the same dragon who, against all conventional wisdom, let a Viking get close enough to him to call him a friend.
When this strange 'relationship' of ours started, we were distant and understandably cautious around one another. He'd watch me from afar, but when I'd try to get closer to him he'd push me away, leave, or ignore me outright. With enough time we finally broke through each other's defenses and managed to forge a small bond. Over the last month that bond has grown into a inescapable chain that I would do anything to keep from breaking.
"Hey, good morning there, bud," I said, my face turned down to the ground. "I hope you slept well. If you haven't noticed," I gestured forward with my left hand, the only limb I had that hadn't been pinned to the ground, "I only left to bring you breakfast. And I'd really appreciate it if you'd get off of me before you start eating it because I can't feel my legs."
Toothless let out what I've come to accept as laughter as he leapt off of me gracefully, allowing me to stand back up while he began to eat. I pulled my journal out of my vest to take some notes on his body, but only after I jotted down some things I noticed about Astrid from earlier(her ongoing frustration, the deteriorating quality of her axe, her perfect form when she throws her weapon, how her bangs always seemed to get in the way of her eyes when she's training, how her eyes were that striking shade of blue you could lose yourself in, the soft curve of her face, how... How I should probably scratch this out, or at least stop writing it). Hoping once again that no one else ever had a chance to read what I'd been writing, I pushed the whole thing from my head as best I could and started making more notes on Toothless.
His graceful, muscular body and extremely powerful wings could carry the weight of myself and probably one other, but too much excess weight would begin to drop his speed and maneuverability considerably. The fire-proof black scales he constantly re-grew could prove useful if I ever figured out how to make a tunic out of them.
His extremely emotive, yellow-green, catlike eyes were one of his most interesting features. The range of emotion they could reveal was strikingly human, and more often than not I could tell exactly what Toothless's mood was by looking at his face.
Moving my gaze from his head down his body, I felt a pang of guilt surge through me as I looked upon the rigging I'd designed for his tail. It was in place of one of the tailfins he was missing, and without the artificial wing and a rider to position it properly, Toothless had no chance of flying. The rope and pulley system I had to position the wing worked, but it was sluggish to respond and could lock up if we were flying too fast, so it needed a redesign to function properly. But if not for me and the weapons I'd designed while tutoring under Gobber, he wouldn't be missing the original one at all.
My father's had me in the forge since I was old enough to lift a craftsman's hammer, mostly to keep me out of harm's way. He also said it'd stop me from causing trouble and give me something to do for the village that was actually useful. Someone as scrawny and useless as I was in battle would never manage to kill a dragon by himself, so I improvised with whatever I could think of. Nearly everything I'd ever built was a failure, though, and all of my shortcomings had earned me the title "Hiccup the Useless" among my peers.
But all of that was the past, and those dragon-killing contraptions I used to build no longer exist. I scrapped them all after I realized I'd used one of them to badly injure my only friend. It felt incredibly ironic that I would have no friends at all if I hadn't done what I did, but that couldn't excuse what I did to him. I was just glad he never thought to hold it against me.
With a sigh I finished sketching out the updated version of the saddle Toothless was wearing and put my journal away again. I made my way over to the dragon and placed my hand on his side, stroking it lightly. Toothless crooned at this, pushing himself against me in response.
"Feels good, doesn't it? The new saddle should stop all of the rubbing and wearing, and I'm sorry it still isn't done yet. Still, you wouldn't need it at all without me..." He stared at me for a moment before butting his nose against my stomach. His purring felt comforting, and with it came a sense of ease. Even if he understood what I'd done, he clearly didn't seem to care.
"Thanks, Toothless." I dusted myself off, watching as the 'ferocious' Night Fury eyeballed and then pounced on the cache of fish I'd brought him. He played with a few of the fish, but before long had begun to eat. After several minutes of loud, sloppy gorging, Toothless belched appreciatively towards me and then plopped to the ground.
Blowing the smell of saltwater, fish and dragon breath out of my face, I lied down with my head against his scaly side. He started a small fire near us with a puff and pushed a fish to me he hadn't eaten. I was about to claim I wasn't hungry, but Toothless already seemed insistent that I eat it. Picking it up by the tail, he dropped the fish in my lap and then began lightly growling at me.
Before I knew it, the herring was skewered and roasting over our little fire pit. Apparently feeling satisfied by this, Toothless' growling stopped and he lied his head down next to me. As his attention drifted to the crackling fire, his expression changed once again to a look of content.
It wasn't just Toothless that could express himself, either. The Terrible Terrors, tiny dragons that came in a rainbow of colors and acted very much like cats(if cats could fly and breathe fire) also wore their moods on their faces. However, they're not terribly smart; arguably the least-aware of the dragons near Berk. Still, they seemed smart enough to understand basic emotions, which made me wonder what the bigger dragons I'd never had a chance to get to know were really like.
We sat there for a while, not really doing much. I'd already told him about the raid, the night I shot him down, how I was usually treated in the village because of my attempts to help. There was very little I hadn't talked about in the long weeks I'd known him, from ideas and inventions to previous friends and family - I even told him about the night my mother died.
"Sometimes... Sometimes I wonder exactly when it happened. When I and the rest of the kids my age were all toddlers, we were all really friendly with one another. I don't remember much from those days, but a few things do stick out in my head: learning to read the Dragon Manual with Fishlegs, successfully keeping the twins from ripping each other apart even when their own parents couldn't, actually getting along with my older cousin Snotlout, and of course, spending time with Astrid."
I stared at my fish for a moment before taking a bite of it. The taste took a backseat to my mind constantly coming back to Astrid. Thinking about her left me with an awkward, empty feeling in my chest, like the dull throbbing pain that comes along with a sleeping limb. For the longest time I couldn't find anything that would help with the feeling until the first day Toothless and I successfully took flight. But even then, the thoughts of her would sometimes get through.
"Her mother and mine were both Shieldmaidens. They also happened to be childhood friends, which ultimately meant that no matter what kind of kids they'd have, the two would be very close. Sometimes they even joked about having them married if the two were boy and girl, a point my mom liked to bring up around me whenever she noticed I wasn't feeling very happy. Looking back, the reason she always told me that was because she knew how I felt about Astrid before I did." Toothless continued to stare at me, a small smile curling at the edges of his mouth.
"It's true; even back then I was in love with her. I never told anyone, though; I figured it'd ruin my relationship with her if she found out. Besides, the other kids already picked on me enough, me being their scrawny punching bag and all. Even with the teasing I was still invited to do things with them, which game me the chance to play with Astrid. She never picked on me, probably because I could make her laugh." I nonchalantly looked into the sky as I continued.
"We were young when I had my first real memory of her, even if there wasn't much to it. I was five or six, maybe less. She'd just laughed really hard at something I'd said. I was so focused on that sound that I didn't notice the small pond I was about to stumble into, which was unfortunate because that water was really cold." Toothless laughed again at my expense, purring a bit before quieting down quickly so I could continue.
"Yeah, real funny. Astrid thought it was, too. And despite how cold I was, I couldn't help but laugh with her, because it felt like the natural thing to do." I stopped for a moment to chew on my slowly charring fish. "I have a few good memories with her, but that one stands out in my mind. Not that I don't appreciate them all." The nostalgic grin that had etched its way onto my face slowly faded, as did Toothless's smile and vocalizations.
"Because sometimes that's all you have left of a person." I threw the remainder of the fish into the fire, having eaten my fill.
"I told you once... Back when I was eight, my mother was killed during a raid. I remember her being a gentle and caring, but very tough woman. I also remember hearing it took four dragons at once to finally take her down, though I never saw it myself. And while I never imagined things could get worse after that, they did." I watched the fire crackle as I drew my knees up to my chest. The past was a strange thing to think about, especially those points that hurt to remember. I heard Toothless crooning at me while I stared through the dancing flames, and it was enough to pull me from the trance I'd gotten myself into.
"It's okay, bud. Really. I may be an outcast hiding in plain sight, but I have you. And that's all that matters to me now. Really, it's almost funny how a creature I was taught could feel nothing but blind rage shows me more love and compassion than I've been given since I was a child." Toothless' tail wrapped around me as he blasted the fire pit again, giving us some more warmth. It was only then I realized I was shivering, and as much as I hated to admit it, lightly crying. It was the worst part about remembering my mother, how awful even the good memories could make me feel. But with Toothless around, that feeling had been fading more and more every day.
"It all really did start after my mother died. Everyone was in shock, but instead of grieving it seemed to have thrown everyone's motivations into overdrive. Fishlegs started reading into everything about killing dragons, spending whatever time he had away from the books with a war hammer in his hand. The twins went from roughhousing to even more violent roughhousing, which was about the best anyone expected from them. Snotout started training with his dad every day. Astrid, well, she'd always practiced with her axe, but the death of her surrogate aunt seemed to enrage her. She threw everything she had into learning how to fight, outpacing the other kids in the process. I was the only one who couldn't do anything to help." Toothless began growling as he was earlier when those words left my mouth. He never did like hearing me talk down about myself.
"Sorry, bud, but in a way it's true. Most of my contraptions backfired and wound up hurting someone or damaging buildings. Of course, no one really gave me a hard time about it at first, but over time I was condemned from building any more siege engines. Granted, that didn't exactly stop me since no one outside of my father and Gobber ever bothered to watch what I was doing, and even those two hardly ever found out." I kept staring at the sky while I figured out what I wanted to tell him next. Inevitably, my mind began wandering until it returned again to Astrid.
"The night my mom died, Astrid was the first person to find me. Gobber had run out when he'd heard my father screaming bloody rage, and from what I gather he didn't even notice me pass out when I heard him. I came to with Astrid leaning over me, shaking me awake. She consoled me, of course; they all did. But over time my weaknesses pushed them all away, her included." I sat in relative silence save for the sound of Toothless vibrating as I regrouped my thoughts.
"She told me... She told me a few days ago, that she hated me. Absolutely and unconditionally despised me. I can't even begin to tell you what that did to me. The only reason I can bear it is because I'm not entirely alone." I scratched Toothless' head and he nuzzled me some more. "Her timing was perfect, too. She said that to me on the anniversary of my mother's death. I wonder if she even realizes it, since I didn't bother telling her; it'd only upset her even more." Toothless glared at me, and I knew why. I was always too nice, at least to her.
"Look, I get that I need to stand up for myself some more, but that battle isn't really one I can win. Besides, at this point I'd rather focus on the better aspects of my life. For instance, my best friend is a dragon." Toothless smiled again, his purring jumping all around in volume and pitch.
"I doubt my mother would want me dwelling on the past, anyway. Hel, if she knew what I was doing with you... I think she might even be proud of me, in a way. Shooting down a dragon, and then befriending it instead of killing it? And flying with him, on top of that!" I stood up and stretched, pulling in a yawn in the process. "Speaking of which, Toothless, do you want to get into the air? It's a beautiful day and I figured we could try freefalling again, probably after checking to see if my dad's scouting boat is on its way back from Helheim's Gate."
I made my way over to a curved wall of the cove, close to where our fire was. Nestled in the stone wall was a cave that was just big enough to act as a den for supplies as well as a place to sleep for Toothless and myself. It was also where I'd been sleeping since my dad left for Helheim's Gate. My riding vest and Toothless's saddle were right in the place I always stored them, and after pulling them out I made my way back to Toothless.
"You know, I'm really going to miss nights out here with you, bud. It's more comfortable sleeping in the cove than back home, but I know how my father gets when I'm out past sundown. It hasn't been much of an issue with him being gone," I said, buckling the saddle into place over the tailfin mechanism, "but when he gets back, I'll have to head home. I guess, with you hiding here now, we should consider ourselves lucky no one else seems to notice my absence, let alone care."
"Then you shouldn't care, either." Either my mind was playing tricks on me or Toothless Cove was actually haunted, since what I heard was clearly someone's voice. It sounded not unlike my father's, booming and strong, but with a certain tenderness to it. I quickly looked around for another person, but it was obvious that Toothless and I were the only ones in the cove.
"Well, that was... Interesting. Hearing random voices usually isn't a good sign, but I did have some trouble sleeping last night... Maybe I'm just hearing things. A nice, long flight should take my mind off of it." Toothless smiled at me and nodded before beckoning to the skies. With a smile myself, I hopped into the saddle and we were off like lightning.